All of us should take pride in what the nature of Maine provides for us—sustenance, peace, and perhaps most importantly: a safe space that is inherently meant for everyone. We can't deny that we live in a world and in a society that are filled with fear and hate of those who are deemed different, but flora and fauna care not about who one loves, how they identify their gender, or their race. The natural environment cares for everything and everyone, as long we care for it. And truly, it takes many perspectives to be able to properly safeguard the Earth and protect it from harm. We must shield it from corporate polluters, responsibly enjoy its bounty, encourage others to appreciate it, and ensure protection not only for the home we all share, but the protection of every unique being who shares it.
“[The LGBTQ+ community and allies] are one of the many gifts of our natural world.” — Annie Winchester
For Pride Month this year, the Natural Resources Council of Maine has compiled a few brief celebratory pieces from some of our out LGBTQ+/allied staff and board members. We're grateful to be an organization that not only works to protect Maine's environment for everyone, but that also welcomes and supports a base of members, supporters, staff, and board comprised of folks who are committed to including anyone who appreciates the nature of Maine—regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.
We hope you've all taken the opportunity to make the outdoors a bit more colorful this month, just by being you. Happy Pride!
Lisa Pohlmann (she/her/hers), NRCM Chief Executive Officer
In the spirit of Pride Month, I want to say how wonderful it has been to work in affirming nonprofit organizations throughout my 40-year career in Maine. I now get to work at NRCM and help take care of the woods, waters, and wildlife of this state that has become my home. I want to make sure that all LGBTQ+ people feel as safe and appreciated as I have felt all of these years, whether advocating at the State House or camping in the woods. There is a lot of passion in the environmental community to seize this moment and make the deep changes needed to make our world more just and equitable. NRCM is digging in deep and is up for this challenge. That makes me happy.
Levi Hahn (he, him, his), NRCM Social Media & Creative Services Manager
Like the sparkle that glistens on the ocean waves, the bright glimmer that peaks over a mountain at sunrise, the rainbow that crests a river after a rain shower, or the beacon that emanates from a lighthouse, Maine is supposed to shine for all. That's what I realized after moving here two and a half years ago, at least. "'Cause people here don't care where you've been or what you've done. They're just thinking 'bout the next day they're going to see some sun," says a popular YouTube video about our state. And in my experience as a gay man, nothing could be truer. While it would be naïve to claim that bigotry doesn't exist here, it would also be imprudent to write that Maine fits into the same pack of some other rural U.S. states in regard to LGBTQ+ acceptance. The fact is, we're leaders (Dirigo!). Not only do we rank high for having some of the most protective laws in the nation for queer people, but we also don't have any laws on the books that limit our rights, according to the Human Rights Campaign. That speaks to the people here. We have respect for others to live their lives freely; to understand differences; and to respect each other, just as we respect the woods, waters, animals, and air that surround us. The respect that Mainers have for each other intersects with the appreciation we have for nature. And, by and large, we want our beautiful outdoor spaces to be accessible and loved by everyone.
Marlisa Simonson (she/her/hers), NRCM Senior Director of Philanthropy
For generations, mostly straight, mostly white authors and poets have described the joys of a walk in the woods or a stroll by the sea. The promise of this idyllic vision has often been harder to realize for members of our LGBTQIA+ communities. Instead, looks askance, derisive comments, and in a few extreme cases, physical confrontation have been the experience of some in my network at campsites, on trails, and at the beach. NRCM works to protect the nature of Maine for all. We applaud our members who are taking action through hyperlocal efforts to create safe, accessible natural spaces in their cities and towns. However you identify, we want you to experience the surprise of seeing your first moose, the awe of a mountaintop vista, and the delight of a rainbow dancing in the air above a waterfall. Maine is for you. See you out there!
Annie Winchester (she/her/hers), NRCM Board Member
We should all meet up more often in the woods. In the many years that I've been on the trail, on the water, or anywhere outdoors, when I come upon another person, almost invariably we wave, or smile, or even share a friendly greeting and perhaps a few words about where we are. No one asks about my origin, my work, my home address... we simply greet each other as equals with a common connection: an understanding of the awesome power of the natural world to inspire, rejuvenate, restore, and yes, connect.
Michael Catania (he, him, his), NRCM Board Member
As the environmental community focuses on promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion, it is important to remember that gender identity and sexual orientation are just as important as race, creed, and color. Only by showing respect, tolerance, and acceptance of ALL people can we hope to build a truly safe and sustainable society.
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